Michigan and China
9:07 am
Wed November 9, 2011

Michigan and China: A roundup of our stories

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton has been reporting recently on a series of stories about Michigan's evolving relationship with China.

From cars to crops to hats, these sometimes unusual Chinese connections could have a big impact on the state's economic future.

Here is a brief roundup, in case you missed any of the stories.

October 11: Selling American cars, China-style

Chinese dealerships with their aggressive sales staffs, shiny floors, and canned music may evoke their American counterparts, but Tracy Samilton says U.S. automakers are trying to cash in on China's booming demand for cars by tailoring their approach to suit local tastes and attitudes.

From working to maintain a solid brand reputation (the opinions of family and colleagues is probably the most important factor for Chinese car buyers), to explaining features to inexperienced drivers, Detroit car companies are betting on China as a key to their futures.

October 11: Tiny cars to tackle big problems

Megacities like Beijing and Shanghai already struggle with dense smog and days-long traffic jams clogging roads and highways, butĀ  China's voracious appetite for cars and steadily increasing urban population only promise to make things worse.

Tracy Samilton reports that, among other solutions, General Motors' China division is experimenting with small electric vehicles that seat two, roll on two wheels, and can drive themselves, not to mention take up one fifth the parking space needed for a regular car.

October 14: Ford and the case of the Chinese official's hat

While Ford is currently working hard to be a top competitor the Chinese auto market, they lag behind other international automakers including General Motors.

Tracy Samilton tells us that part of the reason for this gap can be traced back to hats.

More specifically, in the early 1990s, Ford lost out on a contract to supply Chinese officials with a fleet of limousines because the unusual body shape of the Taurus knocked the hats right of the dignitaries' heads.

October 23: Exchanging students and changing perspectives

Engineering students in Shanghai and Ann Arbor are learning more than what is printed in their textbooks thanks to a University of Michigan Joint Institute program that sends Michigan students to study in China and brings Chinese students here to do the same.

Students from both sides of the program told Tracy Samilton about local hospitality, the allure of college football, and that a big part of the experience is about learning from their host culture and not just in the classroom.

November 7: From Michigan's fields to Chinese dinner tables

Detroit cars are certainly a major component in Michigan's economic connection with China, but as Tracy Samilton reports, there is also an increasing Chinese demand for Michigan crops and other food products.

Chinese livestock producers use Michigan grown soybeans and wheat as feed, but consumers are also developing a taste for Michigan foods from blueberries to cereal to baby food, bolstered in part by U.S. safety and quality standards.

November 8: Pure Michigan in China?

Both the Michigan tourism industry and the state capitol are hoping to make Michigan a destination for international tourists, especially for thoseĀ  from China.

While some, including Governor Snyder have big plans to attract Chinese visitors by showcasing Michigan's natural beauty and automotive history, others say that most Chinese people probably haven't even heard of Michigan, and as Tracy Samilton reports, bad translations are not helping.

And an audio documentary...

As a way to bring these stories together, a team of Michigan Radio producers created an audio documentary on the Michigan-China connection that features content from all of these stories along with interviews with Kenneth Lieberthal, the Director of the John L. Thornton China Center, Wei Shen, Managing Director of Bridge Connect, and Rebecca Linland, the Director of Automotive Research at HIS Automotive.

- John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom